Arctic Fox

Vulpes lagopus

Arctic foxes once lived in Britain, making their home here during the last Ice Age, when Britain as far south as Luton airport was covered by ice. They are readily distinguished from the red foxes found in Britain nowadays, with their thick, fluffy white coats in winter and short grey fur in summer.

Like their red fox cousins, Arctic foxes are carnivores. They eat lemmings, Arctic hares, sea birds, ptarmigan, seal pups, eggs and carrion. Lemmings are by far the most common prey in summer; a single family of foxes can eat dozens of lemmings in a day. In winter they will scavenge from polar bear feeding remains. Up to 40 Arctic foxes have been seen feeding on a frozen walrus carcass trapped in ice; they had to dig down through nearly 1 metre of ice to get at it. Just like red foxes, Arctic foxes will cache food that they cannot eat immediately and bury it for later. Arctic foxes have been known to travel huge distances in the wild, sometimes ending up as far as 1000 miles from their starting point, having drifted on ice floes.

Arctic foxes have not lived wild in Britain for thousands of years. Nowadays they are found throughout the Arctic Circle. They are the only member of the dog family to have adapted well to such extreme conditions. They are described as having a circumpolar range, meaning that they are found throughout the entire Arctic, including parts of Greenland, Russia, Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia. In general they are not threatened in the wild, except for the Scandinavian mainland population, which is endangered, despite decades of protection from hunting and persecution.

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